Amor Agora – Delivering an authentic dining experience to Hong Kong
Incorporating elements that feel like both a hymn to the past and of striking contemporary relevance, Chef Antonio Oviedo serves up a truly fabulous fusion of Spanish tasting menus. Very much to his credit, he ably combines prime Spanish seasonal ingredients with a range of innovative cooking techniques, all superbly served within the refined rustic-luxe space that comprises Agora, his Central-set bijou bistro.
As soon as you cross its threshold, the restaurant’s modern Mediterranean vibe is all but unmissable. Its ambience is further enhanced by its choice of beige velvet-covered chairs and padded walls, all of which finely complement its existing granite columns. Beyond that, the eatery’s minimalistic 24-seater space includes a private dining room that seats up to 10 guests, as well as two individual tables. Contemporary dashes of colour, meanwhile, come courtesy of the warm pin lights while a sea of red-marbled table tops soften the space, artfully counterpointing the brick accent walls and exposed ceiling.
Very much dominating the central space, however, is a communal table that runs the length of the entrance hall, providing just about the perfect harbour for those on a casual date night or looking to wash down their solo dinner with a glass of booze from their more than 20 Spanish appellations and over 90 Spanish labels. The venue’s long counter piece, however, serves as the main interior statement, with its shiny red lacquered front and marble countertop, to which Chef Antonio does all his impressive displays of peerless culinary expertise.
Explaining the thinking behind the look and feel of his establishment, the chef says: “My goal has always been to express my Spanish heritage by both showcasing our much-loved cuisine and creating a restaurant where the ambience is redolent of my country’s unique cultural heritage.”
In line with his avowed mission, he devised a tasting menu which, while largely authentically Spanish, is also bold enough to allow for a number of interesting digressions. Overall, he offers two seasonal chef’s degustation menus – the Menú Ágora and the Menú Gran Ágora.
As a titillating opener, the Verdial extra virgin olive oil, cultivated from firm and plump Gordal olives, immediately evokes one of the classic tapas bars of Madrid. This imaginative selection of appetisers is then completed by an ample serving of Choricero dried chili pepper – a dehydrated, non-spicy variety of Spanish red pepper and a classic seasoning of Basque cuisine – and Gamoneu, a fatty, lightly smoked Spanish cheese made from a combination of goat, cow and sheep’s milk.
Following this eminently intriguing preamble, is a recent addition to the menu – Vainas, a warming and savoury green bean soup with a touch of olive oil. This is ably followed by Rubia Gallega Tartare – the meat of a highly prized cattle breed, which is distinguished by its beautiful yet subtle marbling and its traditionally spicy, slightly briny flavour. Beautifully served with cured mujol roe, green peas purée, crispy wheat tart and tomato bread topped with Iberico ham, this proves a true treat. As does the Setas, a delightfully earthy bouquet of assorted wild mushrooms – all embellished with migas, chorizo and mushroom espuma.
Mar y Muntanya features Mediterranean Sea cucumber with teardrop peas, black pudding and a stew of pork, beef stomach and chickpeas. Accompanying this is Soccarat, a dish that forefronts the toasty, crispy and umami-rich bottom part of the paella alongside fresh carabinero and carabinero aioli. Another recent addition is the Lubina, Atlantic Sea bass served with ajada spiced mashed potato and goose barnacles. More of a confirmed favourite meanwhile, is the Venado Venison, served with potato chips, quince, glazed chestnut, sweet potato purée and venison bone jus.It’s best to end the whole dining experience with Flor de Azahar, a delightful dessert made with orange blossom, almond and saffron.It wraps the whole experience with a perfect confectionary ending. And just like the fine dining scene of Spain, Chef Antonio hopes Agora becomes one of those places that’s been around and stays around forever. “It has such a duality between palatability and beauty,” he says.
Agora, G/F, D Hall, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3568 6834
(Text: Joseff Musa Photos: Agora)
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